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NY Supreme Court Allows Vendors to Sell Work in City Parks

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

For now, it looks like the city's art vendors aren't going anywhere.

On Monday, a justice from the New York state Supreme Court upheld last Wednesday's ruling that temporarily stops the city from limiting the number of artists selling their work in several city parks, including Central Park, Battery Park, Union Square, and the High Line.

In July, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation decided it would set aside a limited number of spaces where vendors could set up stands, in the hopes that it could reduce congestion in crowded parks. Each morning, spaces were given out to vendors on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Several artists subsequently filed lawsuits claiming that the parks department's new rules violated their free speech rights and discriminated against those who might have trouble competing for a spot, including the elderly and the disabled.

"We believe that the regulations violate constitutional rights," says Jon Brooks, one of the lawyers working on the artists' case pro-brono. "We believe they violate state and city human rights laws. And we believe they exceed the authority of the parks department."

Brooks adds that the city council has considered legislation requiring vendors to obtain permits in the past, but had dropped the issue due to legal protections for vendors of so-called "expressive matter" (books and art). And Brooks says an administrative agency like the parks department can not issue or adopt regulations that are broader than the city council's laws.

Earlier this summer, a separate, federal suit ruled in the parks department's favor. But Sheryl Neufeld, who is an attorney for New York City, says that the fight is not over yet.

"A federal court judge has already determined that the parks department regulations do not these violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights," Neufeld says. "As a result, we intend to pursue this litigation until the rules can again be implemented."

New York's Supreme Court will reconvene next Tuesday to consider a preliminary injunction, that if passed would temporarily stop the new regulations until the suit comes to a final resolution.

Updated 8/31 at 4:00 P.M.

*Correction: When first posted, this article incorrectly stated that the original ruling came last Friday. It came Wednesday.

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